Gomillion v. Lightfoot

PETITIONER: Gomillion
RESPONDENT: Lightfoot
LOCATION: Alabama General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 32
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 364 US 339 (1960)
ARGUED: Oct 18, 1960 / Oct 19, 1960
DECIDED: Nov 14, 1960

Facts of the case

An act of the Alabama legislature re-drew the electoral district boundaries of Tuskegee, replacing what had been a region with a square shape with a twenty-eight sided figure. The effect of the new district was to exclude essentially all blacks from the city limits of Tuskegee and place them in a district where no whites lived.

Question

Did the redrawing of Tuskegee's electoral district boundaries violate the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution which prevents the United States or any individual state from denying a citizen the right to vote on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude?

Media for Gomillion v. Lightfoot

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 19, 1960 in Gomillion v. Lightfoot

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 18, 1960 in Gomillion v. Lightfoot

Earl Warren:

Number 32, C. G. Gomillion, et al., Petitioners, versus Phil M. Lightfoot, as Mayor of the City of Tuskegee.

Mr. Gray.

Fred D. Gray:

May it please the Court.

The argument of the petitioners is divided into two parts.

I shall present to the Court the statement of a fact and its surrounding circumstances.

Mr. Carter will argue the questions of law applicable to the facts in this case.

We feel that the facts in this case, as alleged in the complaint, are so important that we help reproduced an enlarged copy of the -- of Exhibit 2 that is attached to the complaint which appears on page 13 of the record.

They -- the Court, in understanding the facts, we shall periodically refer to this map in the (Inaudible), pointing out --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

(Inaudible)

Fred D. Gray:

Yes, sir, that is an enlargement of the exhibit on page 13 of the record.

We shall periodically refer to this map pointing out certain facts as alleged in the complaint.

This is a class action instituted by 12 Negroes who are former residents in the City of Tuskegee, Alabama, as the limits of that city were front to the enactment of Act No. 140.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

(Inaudible)

Fred D. Gray:

Yes, sir.

The original limits extend the southern boundaries to this land, the northern boundaries to this land, the western boundaries to the land here and the eastern boundaries to the land here.

Those are the limits as they exist prior to the enactment of Act No. 140.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

(Inaudible)

Fred D. Gray:

The black line represents the present boundary.

140 changed the land which was withdrawing it from here to this point and it made these various figures as indicating cutting in certain areas.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, what in any size that (Inaudible)

Fred D. Gray:

No, sir.

It was in the black line represents what is in the municipality and what's on the outside represents what formally was in the municipality.

Felix Frankfurter:

May I ask how long the old limit were had been in existence?

Fred D. Gray:

I am not sure, Your Honor, but I'm sure it has been in existence for some over 10 years, I believe.

I'm not sure.

Felix Frankfurter:

Where is the Tuskegee Institute on that map?

Fred D. Gray:

Tuskegee Institute is here, in the northwest corner.

It is no longer in the city.

Felix Frankfurter:

That's -- that's now outside.

Fred D. Gray:

It is now outside.